Finding the way ahead together
THE Chancellor of the Exchequer's absence from the Joint Hospitality Industry Conference last week (Caterer, 9 July, page 8) did not prevent the industry from conveying its key messages to senior Government ministers, and demonstrating how effective is the co-operative action among the industry's leading trade and professional bodies, all of which have developed strong working relationships with their relevant Government departments.
Our briefing of Treasury officials and the presence at the conference of the Paymaster General will ensure that the chancellor's already keenly expressed interest in our ability to add substantially to his economic and job-creation objectives is enhanced.
Chris Smith, the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, whose department has done much to champion our cause and involve us fully in the development of the new tourism strategy, is well aware of our expectations.
He should not be criticised for consulting with us (Caterer, 9 July, page 21). There are many interested parties in the highly fragmented sectors of tourism and hospitality, and realistically it does take time to resolve a mutually acceptable way forward.
But apart from the need for Government to play its part, our report, In the world of hospitality… Anything they can do, we can do better, focused on ways in which our industry could do better: by being more professional and socially responsible; enhancing the links between quality training, education and productivity; adopting best employment practices; helping the 250,000 small businesses in our sector to improve; and being more open to new methods of planning, producing and selling.
Only if we all play our part can we expect to fulfil our industry's full potential and receive the proper recognition that we undoubtedly deserve.
Joint Hospitality Industry Congress,
Any alternatives to crippling VAT?
I REFER to the article "Midmarket hotels put under pressure" (Caterer, 2 July, page 8) - it's a depressing reality. But it would not have to be if VAT were reduced to 8% for the service industry.
It is all payout in the service industry - there is no VAT on food but we have to charge it, and cannot claim it back. We sell a room, which is more often than not owned by the bank, so on top of the interest the Government wants its 17.5% as well.
So what is the answer? Can any of your readers suggest anything?
Any person running a small independent hotel puts their all into providing a service and a welcome which the customer not only appreciates but will return to again and again.
So what have the lodges got? Impersonal service, no one to complain to, and you may, if you're lucky, say "hello" to a neighbour on your corridor. On the other hand, the standard is always the same and people know what to expect.
The small independents do rely a lot on recommendations from other satisfied customers - this is why we have to try so hard. We are England's heritage - let's try not to forget this.
Old Vicarage Guest House,
Certificates of gullibility
I AM amazed beyond belief that more than 600 "caterers" are na‹ve, vain and stupid enough to send money for a "certificate of merit" to a "restaurant guide" of which no one has ever heard.
In a spirit of goodwill, I will also offer these people (surely not your own readers?) a certificate of merit for £5.
I suggest other organisations do likewise, as the sooner such people are out of the profession the better. They will be bankrupt before long.
The Battersea Barge Bistro,
Women on top can have children
I REFER to comments in your article "Women on Top" by Erica Fraser (Caterer, 2 July, page 57). I found it deplorable and sad that Ms Fraser stated that it is not possible for a female to hold a senior position within the contract catering industry and have children.
As managing director of a contract catering company, and a mother, I know that I am not alone and have friends and colleagues in similar circumstances.
If we, as an industry, continue to give a bad impression about working conditions and the way of life, we will be very successful in continuing to discourage people from joining the industry.
I would suggest that perhaps Ms Fraser reviews her time and delegation skills.
Recruiting has it all backwards
HAS the world gone mad? Twenty-two years ago, when I first came into this trade, if you wanted to move on you bought a copy of Caterer and pored over the jobs section. There was a veritable Aladdin's Cave of jobs to suit all tastes.
Some years later, the recruitment agent appeared. This strange beast was supposed to be for the more discreet employer who did not want his name advertised, or did not want to risk his resident employee matching up his position to the box number.
Now we have come full circle, but with one minor difference. I counted more than two dozen recruitment agency adverts in last week's edition before I gave up. Is the tail wagging the dog?
The Devonshire Arms Country House Hotel,
Skipton, North Yorkshire.
If you gotta go, go with a beer
HOW delighted I was to read again about my happy pigs (Christine Wilson's letter, Caterer, 2 July, page 22). I believe that Adnams pigs are "happy", not only because of their diet but also because of the fine conditions that they live in, tended and cared for with compassion.
I would, however, dispute one claim by pointing out that Adnams pigs are transported only eight miles to slaughter, and not driven for miles and miles. Their killing is not "brutal", as she states, and is done in the most humane way known.
Finally, in answer to Ms Wilson's question: "Would I be happy being fed home-grown barley, beer and yeast before I was slaughtered?" What a wonderful way to go!
Chef de cuisine,
No money under the counter
I AM writing in respect of your news item on "golden handcuffs" (Caterer, 2 July, page 7).
I would prefer it to be known that at no time do I give any "cash bonuses" to my employees. Any bonuses received are put through the employee's pay package in the appropriate manner, in conjunction with the Inland Revenue.
I AM organising a reunion for anyone who attended Westminster Technical College during 1968-71 on the hotel chefs' course. It will be held at the college in October this year.
I am running out of resources trying to contact everyone. If you know of anyone who attended, or did so yourself, please contact Sue Palmer (née Taylor) on 0181-668 5574 as soon as possible.